cancer - Support Care Cancer (2003) 11:763768 DOI...

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Received: 31 July 2003 Accepted: 20 August 2003 Published online: 15 October 2003 © Springer-Verlag 2003 This work was presented as an invited lec- ture at the 15th International Symposium Supportive Care in Cancer, Berlin, Germany, 18–21 June 2003. Abstract Within the last two de- cades psychosocial group interven- tions have been developed to help cancer patients cope better with the psychosocial sequelae of cancer di- agnosis and treatment. Support groups include a variety of different approaches some of which focus on behavioral aspects and symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue) and some on the expression of emotions. Most of these support programs are struc- tured and short-term and include ele- ments such as delivery of informa- tion, emotional and social support, stress management strategies based on the cognitive behavioral approach and the teaching of relaxation tech- niques. Beyond individual therapy, group therapies can address cancer- related issues to enable patients to gain emotional support from other patients with similar experiences and to use these experiences to buffer the fear of dying and the unknown fu- ture. One of the overall therapeutic targets is the promotion of the pa- tient’s individual resources. There- fore, such groups are helpful not on- ly for the patients, but also for their spouses and other family members, in relieving the cancer-related dis- tress. In Germany, support groups are established in rehabilitation clin- ics as well as outpatient programs and play an important role in pallia- tive and supportive care of cancer patients. Against the background of changes in the patients’ role, the in- creasing availability of information technology (e.g. the internet) and pa- tient advocacy in cancer treatment, support groups may be understood as a mean of empowerment of the pa- tient. The need for group interven- tions such as outpatient programs for cancer patients is claimed not only by the health professionals but also by the patients themselves. There is some research emphasizing that avoidance of feelings, denial of con- cerns, feelings of helplessness and social isolation are correlated with poorer health outcome and poorer quality of life. Many empirical stud- ies have provided evidence-based knowledge that structured group interventions for cancer patients improve psychological wellbeing, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life, coping and mental adjustment. Positive effects on survival have even been reported, but these effects have not yet been proven. Keywords Psychooncology · Psychosocial intervention · Patient education · Support groups · Coping · Quality of life Support Care Cancer (2003) 11:763–768 DOI 10.1007/s00520-003-0536-7 REVIEW ARTICLE Joachim Weis Support groups for cancer patients J. Weis ( ) Tumor Biology Center, Department of Psychooncology, Breisacher Str. 117, 79106 Freiburg, Germany e-mail: jowe@tumorbio.uni-freiburg.de Tel.: +49-761-2062220 Fax: +49-761-2062258
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cancer - Support Care Cancer (2003) 11:763768 DOI...

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